Tenn. Town Sued Over|’Excessive’ Booze Tax


     (CN) – The Tennessee town of Greeneville is charges liquor stores a higher alcohol “inspection” fee than permitted by state law, six of retailers claim in a trio of lawsuits.
     Each of the lawsuits was filed in the last two weeks in the Greene County Chancery Court.
     In one complaint, River Village Holdings LLC dba Big Time Beverage, The Bottle Shop Inc., West Side Package Store Inc. and Express Wine & Spirits LLC sued the town for a refund of wrongfully-collected taxes.
     The four liquor stores seek $1.3 million and are represented by F. Braxton Terry in Morristown, Tenn.
     Their lawsuit says the inspection fee is a tax that liquor stores pay on their wholesale liquor purchases. The four businesses claim that Greeneville incorrectly charged them an eight percent alcohol inspection fee, in contradiction with the state-mandated five percent.
     “The town of Greeneville wrongly and illegally charged and collected a tax/inspection fee from these businesses of eight percent instead of five percent, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the plaintiffs,” the complaint states. “The plaintiffs allege that the town of Greeneville negligently, indifferently, and illegally collected taxes above and beyond the amounts authorized by Tennessee law. The town of Greeneville is either unwilling or unable to provide an accounting of the taxes/inspection fees collected.”
     A second lawsuit filed by Towne Square Package Store Inc. makes the same allegations. The liquor store, represented by J. Russell Pryor in Greeneville, claims the town charged the incorrect eight percent tax from 2000 to 2014. The store seeks $200,000.
     “The three percent excess tax/inspection fee paid by plaintiff should be refunded by defendant, with interest as provided by law, for the entire period during which the tax was wrongfully and illegally collected,” the Towne Square lawsuit states.
     Finally, a third complaint lodged by Greeneville Beverage Store No. II Inc. seeks a tax refund of $149,000. That liquor store is represented by David Elliott of Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison in Chattanooga, Tenn.
     “Plaintiff’s overpayment to Greenville [sic] has caused plaintiff to suffer financial loss, be at a competitive disadvantage, and deprived plaintiff of capital funds that would have been used in the course of business, and depriving plaintiff of sales that otherwise would have occurred,” the third lawsuit states.
     Greeneville town officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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